Self Care & Wellness Ideas

What Your Skincare Routine Has to Do With Wellness

There’s something about entering a new year that triggers self-reflection and the desire to be better. If you share this impulse and find that it leads you down the skincare aisle, you’re definitely not alone—or misguided. After all, skincare and wellness are two of a kind: Whether you’re applying retinol or SPF, a daily skincare routine can deliver benefits well beyond what you see in the mirror.

Skincare is Selfcare.

Halfhazardly applying SPF in the morning or removing your makeup at night might not feel like big “me” moments—but taking a few minutes to focus on your face is, in and of itself, an exercise in self-care.

“Many people think that self-care needs to be a bubble bath or an hour-long massage, but it really is anything that we do to be good to ourselves—taking time out of your day for you,” says Dr. Rachel Goldman, PhD, licensed psychologist and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. “[It] can have a big impact on our overall health and wellness.”

You don’t need to recite a mantra or listen to a meditation to bring mindfulness to these practices. Whether you take an extra few seconds to massage product into your skin and recognize the pleasant scent or simply take a deep breath in and out when you’re done, practicing your skincare routine can help bring you back to the present and serve as a way to get focused for the day ahead or wind down from a hectic few hours. At the very least, these moments award you with the opportunity to focus on yourself and can be a welcome reprise if you spend much of your time catering to the needs of your boss, your kids, or your partner.

Your Skincare Routine Can Improve Your Mental Health. 

These days, low-grade anxiety is the norm for many. “Anxiety and stress are often caused by things that are out of our control,” Dr. Goldman says. “A helpful tip in these situations is to focus on what is in your control.”

While you might not be able to wave a wand and end the pandemic, you can make sure you moisturize day in, day out. “Implementing a skincare routine as well as focusing on other health behaviors will help someone feel more in control,” Dr. Goldman says.

If the state of the world is what concerns you, using sustainable products manufactured by minority-led brands can make you feel even more connected and proactive.

But let’s say the current appearance of your skin is what keeps you up at night—and it’s no wonder, considering the amount of time we all spend on FaceTime and Zoom. “We know that the effects of skin conditions run more than skin deep, and are associated with a significant psychosocial impact,” says dermatologist Dr. Josh Zeichner, MD, associate professor and director of cosmetic and clinical research at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “Conditions like acne are associated with feelings of depression, low self-esteem, poor performance in school or the workplace, and even can limit interpersonal relationships.”

In such a case, investing in a results-oriented skincare routine can surely boost your confidence, contributing to overall wellness.

The same goes for anxiety around aging or skin cancer, which can be a top worries for many. Practicing a regular preventative skincare routine can put you in the driver’s seat. After all, it’s no secret that SPF can help protect your skin from sun damage and melanoma. “The best way to treat skin cancer is to prevent it from developing to begin with,” says Dr. Zeichner, who compares sunscreen for skin health to exercise for heart health.

A Skincare Routine Can Pave the Way for Other Healthy Routines.

Although healthy habits form the foundation of wellness—creating them isn’t exactly easy.

The good news: “Practicing any kind of routine can help contribute to our overall wellness,” says Dr. Goldman.

So while running three miles a day might not be within your wheelhouse at the moment, applying moisturizer every morning can be a teeny tiny step that contributes to overall health. Afterall, skincare isn’t just about aesthetics. “When the skin barrier is disrupted, it can contribute to dryness, irritation, and skin inflammation,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It’s important to maintain a healthy skin barrier to protect the skin from environmental exposures, keeping harm out and hydration in.”

And who knows? Maybe sticking to a simple skincare routine will give you the confidence to take on the next step in self-improvement—big or small.

6 More Tips to Make Skincare a Part of Your Wellness Routine

  1. Position your skincare products next to your toothbrush. You wouldn’t wake up or hit the sack without brushing your teeth, right? Stowing your serums front and center to use after brushing can help you adhere to regular use. “Coupling the new habit [you want to practice] with something else so it’s easier to remember is a form of clustering, which is a way of organizing information in memory,” Dr. Goldman explains.
  2. Set an alarm 15 minutes before your desired bedtime to begin your skincare routine. This way, there’s no reason to rush it.
  3. Stash SPF strategically. Whether you plant a bottle of it by your door, in your car, or inside your sunglasses case, visual cues can help remind you to apply it before heading out the door.
  4. Purchase multi-use products. The best skincare routine is the one you’ll practice religiously. If applying a cleanser, toner, serum, eye cream, moisturizer, and SPF aren’t going to happen for you, try a multi-use product, like a vitamin-C enhanced sunblock or a moisturizer you can dab around the delicate eye area.
  5. Be realistic. If you struggle to remove your makeup at night, a seven-step skincare routine probably isn’t in the cards for you.  “In order to build healthy habits that stick, we need to start small, be realistic, and start where we are today—not where you were a few years ago, or where you want to be in the future,” says Dr. Goldman. “Think of one small change you can start today, one small step that gets you closer to where you want to be. Consider your skincare goals and set one at a time—like sleeping soundly sans mascara. Once you master it, progress to another, like applying an eye cream after your makeup is off.
  6. Remove barriers to adherence. If anti-aging is important to you but you barely make it to the sink to brush your teeth before conking out at night, try sleeping on a wrinkle-reducing silk pillowcase to do the work while you sleep away your worries.

Elizabeth Narins

Elizabeth Narins is a freelance writer, editor, and content/social media strategist based in Brooklyn, New York. The former senior director of digital and social content at WW (formerly Weight Watchers), she has held staff positions at Women's Health and Cosmopolitan, and is no stranger to a beauty closet. Elizabeth's work (and too many photos of her curly-haired toddler) can be found on Instagram @ejnarins.